Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
ARKANSAS SPORTS HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2013:
2012 LPGA season hurtles Lewis, 27, into Hall’s express lane
Stacy Lewis, who won the LPGA's Rolex Player of the Year in 2012, is one of this year's inductees into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
FAYETTEVILLE Stacy Lewis, the LPGA’s reigning player of the year, had a question for her agents after she was notified of her impending induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
“I said, ‘Aren’t I kind of young for that?’ ” said Lewis, who played at the University of Arkansas in 2005-2008.
“It’s kind of strange to be inducted into a hall of fame when I feel like I still have a lot to do in my career. At the same time, it’s a huge honor.”
Lewis, 27, will become the youngest person inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame during the organization’s 55th annual banquet March 8 at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, bumping former middleweight boxing world champion Jermain Taylor for that distinction.
Taylor was 28 when he was inducted as part of the 2007 class.
Lewis’ birthday is Feb. 16, 1985, so she will be 28 by the time she is inducted, but she will be younger than Taylor was when he entered.
Ray Tucker, executive director of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, said the organization had no concerns when it came to Lewis, even though she is still in the early stages of her professional career.
“I don’t think there was one reservation at all when you look at her collegiate career and what she accomplished, where she came from and what she’s overcome, and then the fact this past year she was the LPGA Player of the Year,” Tucker said.
“It’s like Jermain. Jermain won the world title and we were like, ‘OK, what’s he going to do to top that?’
“Why not go ahead and put them in? ... We know she’s only going to get bigger and better.”
Lewis certainly appears to have a lot more to do in her professional golf career, but she’s already made her mark on the game.
She won four LPGA events in 2012, collected nearly $2 million in prize money and became the first American to be selected as the LPGA’s player of the year since Beth Daniel in 1994.
“I thought last year I could be in contention, hopefully win a couple of times, and that was kind of my goal: Win a couple of times and be the top-ranked American,” Lewis said. “I had done that in June. Then it was kind of like, ‘Well, now what do I do?’ ”
AT A GLANCE: STACY LEWIS
Hometown: The Woodlands, Texas
College: University of Arkansas
LPGA Wins: 6
Majors: 1 (Kraft Nabisco Championship, 2011)
Pro Achievements: LPGA Player of the Year in 2012; four-time LPGA tournament winner in 2012
World Rank: No. 2
After winning the Mobile Bay and Shoprite LPGA Classics in April and June, Lewis finished the year with nine top-10 finishes in the final 15 events, including victories at the Navistar Classic on Sept. 23 and the Mizuno Classic on Nov. 4 and a pair of second-place finishes.
“I think what she’s done in a short period of time just says a lot about who she is as a person and a competitor,” said Shauna Estes-Taylor, the Arkansas women’s golf coach who helped recruit Lewis out of The Woodlands, Texas. “She was a complete player when she left here. Obviously there were things she could make more consistent and tighten up, but she had all the tools in place.
“She’s a super-smart young lady and that, coupled with her great mechanics and a great short game, she’s been able to go and put it in play and not be afraid to win.”
Lewis, the NCAA individual champion in 2007, became the first individual female member of the University of Arkansas’ Century Club this year, meaning she reached the $100,000 level in donations to the school.
“She’s really put our women’s golf program on the map,” said Bev Lewis, the UA associate vice chancellor and executive associate athletic director. “She’s really just a wonderful representative of Arkansas athletics.”
Estes-Taylor credited Lewis with helping spark the long-term goals for Arkansas’ women’s golf program.
“That’s one of the things for which I feel so indebted to Stacy, because she brings an awareness to Arkansas women’s golf and she’s very proud to be a Razorback,” Estes-Taylor said.
Lewis is pictured in advertising for the 2013 LPGA season holding a Razorback head cover.
“Arkansas really took a chance on me,” said Lewis, who had surgery for her curved spine as a redshirt in 2006 and is now a major advocate for scoliosis research. “There was no guarantee that I would even play golf for sure.
“They just did so much for me that I want to do whatever I can to give back, and I’m proud of being a Razorback.”
Lewis asked Arkansas to list her as a volunteer assistant, which allows her to visit and work with the women’s golfers when she is in town.
“It’s hard to put a price on what she’s done for this program,” Bev Lewis said.
Lewis will be able to attend the induction ceremony since the LPGA Tour is off that week.
“I’m glad that it worked out as far as the timing,” she said. “It’s definitely a huge honor and a thank you to all the people who helped me get to where I am.”
COLLEGE ACHIEVEMENTS Four-time All-American and winner of the 2007 NCAA championship. Won SEC Tournament as redshirt freshman in 2005. Won Women’s Western Amateur in 2006. Golf Digest amateur of the year in 2007. Won women’s Southern Amateur in 2007. Won SEC Tournament in 2008 and was named SEC Golfer of the Year and SEC Golf Scholar Athlete of the Year. Named to ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America team. Graduated from UA with bachelor’s degrees in finance and accounting. Helped U.S. Curtis Cup team to victory in the 2008 at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland as the first player ever to go 5-0 in the competition.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/31/2013